Richard Dawson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Damon Killian in The Running Man.
Richard Dawson plays the lead antagonist of the film a game show host just like Dawson himself was for many years as the host of family feud. The game show Running Man though is not family feud, and Dawson takes on the role with a brilliant satirical turn. In his game show scenes Dawson brings on his performance from Family Feud which he uses to great effect. He has such a perfect seeming warmness with audience the way he flirts with the women holding them all so close when letting them play along with the game. Dawson uses every trick he had on Family Feud and flawlessly brings them to this performance.
Dawson is a great showman and he makes every scene he is worth while in some way. His whole rousing of the audience is always terrific in creating the world of the show built around a true bloodsport. Dawson doesn't just repeat what he did on Family Feud, although his replication of it is remarkable and should not be taken for granted, Dawson puts just the right tinge of menace along with the jovial host who loves everybody. One of his best moments is when he is building the crowd up, but for a moment he pulls out the true villain to respond to Schwarzenegger's catch phrase "I'll be back" which Dawson responds with the perfectly delivered response of "Only in a re-run".
Richard Dawson is masterful as the game show host. He simply could not be better in the way he plays along so well to the crowd and honestly can even make you even believe in the concept of this type of game show. Dawson play every aspect of the show like an expert pianist playing a difficult piece. He extremely efficient in the way he is able to change through the course of the game from his early scenes where he is building the crowd up, to even portions where Dawson makes Killian a pseudo empathetic sort as he tries to calm the audience as the games are not going how they usually do, but most importantly always the strong resilience of a man who will put on a good show no matter what.
We don't only see Killian only when he is performing and Dawson is wonderful in showing the real man behind the showman. Dawson takes an excellent approach by very much easing down on the flamboyance of his performance as Killian takes care of the behind the doors dealings to get the ratings he wants. Dawson is exceptionally blunt in portraying Killian as the unscrupulous man who doesn't mind a few underhanded dealings if it were to mean just one more point for his show in the ratings. Dawson removes any of the jovial qualities before giving a very dark side of the man who is quick and to the point about his demands as well as in making his threats if anyone fails him.
Dawson deserves so much credit for his performance because he gives a disturbingly authentic portrayal of a game show host when it would have been so easy to way over play the role given that it is an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie. Dawson goes all the way with his performance though being completely believable as the man who can change on a dime from the seemingly charming and energetic host to the blunt and very harsh businessman. Dawson is effortless in creating the sleazy host who can play either to the audience to support any single thing he does or manipulate any one of his underlings or contestants to do his bidding. He brings this dynamic together to make Killian an entertaining and menacing villain.
This is far more then just some inspired stunt casting as just any game show host would not have done. For one Richard Dawson was probably one of the very best in that field, but as well because Dawson delivers in every aspect of the role of Killian. Every scene he is in lights up the film and enlivens it in a way the action scenes can't. Dawson does not waste a single second of his screen time making the most of every moment in his portrayal of the evil game show host. Dawson goes the distance with it and really Dawson clearly could have given a very similar performance in an entirely serious film about an egomaniac game show host.
Its a shame that Richard Dawson's creation of Damon Killian was not in a film that was as inspired as his performance because merely saying that Dawson is the best part of the film is not quite fair. His performance goes above and beyond the call of duty for his role as the central villain. Dawson's work doesn't just rise above the film he elevates the film itself from being completely dispensable to having one aspect that is well worth watching. This is just stellar work from Dawson as he gives a deliciously sinister turn that works both as being an entertaining villain but as well a rather oddly believable portrait of a television personality who will do anything to be number one in the ratings.